[Willow Creek Association] 1998-04-29 - How's That Gift I Gave You?

Every night I put my kids to bed. It's just been a habit of mine, a tradition of sorts, and actually a great "quality" time for the kids and me. Last night after reading to my six-year-old I noticed something in his closet. It was his favorite much sought after, bribed, and probably even prayed for Christmas present. But I saw that present sitting there unopened -- His Star Wars Battleship game was tucked away in the bottom of the closet. Has it been that long since Christmas? Then I thought, gee, I agonized over whether to get that gift for him, but he wanted it so badly, I relented to his wishes. But now, just four months later, the gift is just a dust-gathering piece of plastic tucked away in a closet. It made me feel, well, unappreciated.

I laid there and wondered how God the Father feels about the free gift of salvation we accepted when we do nothing with it? How does God feel when we accept the gift, then after the newness wears off, we let it gather dust? And then I wondered more deeply, how does Jesus feel when He sees the gift we accepted from Him, the gift that He bought for us with His life, the gift that He was faithful to go to the Cross so we can have it, gather "dust." Ouch. It must be very painful to Him.

The gift of salvation and eternal life is free. Salvation changes the direction our life is headed, but in my opinion, discipleship is what changes our character and us. Just what is discipleship? It is simply following Christ, living a Christ-like life. Its when our words and our deeds match up perfectly. It's the last command He gives us before ascending to heaven. Go and make disciples in the entire world. I am pretty sure He meant for us to start with ourselves first.

So great David, tell me to be perfect, yeah right. No, I am not saying we need to be perfect, although that is the ultimate goal, the goal that we will only reach in Heaven. I am saying that we need to be more than just "hitchhikers" to heaven. We need to live out our lives as fully-devoted followers of Christ. Hey, don't take my word for it, let's see what the Bible has to say about this.

James 1:22-25 (NCV) Do what God's teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God's teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God's perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God's teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.

Quite a promise -- we will be made happy if we continue in His word and apply His word to our lives.

2 Peter 1:5-8 Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love. If all these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to be useful and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter is saying, because you have this great gift, do your best to apply the gift to your life.

Romans 12:1-2 I URGE you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Paul urges us not to be conformed to the world around us, but rather be transformed by the application of God's word.

1 John 1:5-7 Here is the message we have heard from Christ and now announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. So if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars and do not follow the truth. But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from every sin.

John is very plain in his words. If we continue in our old ways, if we don't do something with the free gift, then we are liars. I don't know about you all, but these passages sure motivate me to dust off my gift and try to be a little more Christ-like each day. It's the least we can do to show our gratitude for what He has done for us. Is it time you opened your gift from God?

Father forgive us for not using our free gift. Forgive us for putting You in a closet or a desk drawer, only to take you out on Sundays. Fill us with Your Spirit as we seek to be Christ-like in our everyday living. Give us Your strength and Your wisdom. In Christ's name. Amen.